Idaho sugar beet farmers have grown increasingly dependent on genetically modified seeds for cost savings and greater yields over the last decade. But large companies like Hershey are switching from genetically modified beets to traditional beets or cane sugar to fill their needs.
Idaho farmers are now asking if it’s worth growing sugar beets at all, said Garth Taylor, extension specialist at the University of Idaho Department of Agricultural Economics.
“Farmers are saying they won’t go back to hoeing sugar beets,” Taylor said. “They say they would rather farm potatoes or another crop then go back to conventional seeds.”
“Hershey, Danone and Del Monte – I could show you a list,” said John McCreedy, president of Amalgamated Sugar, which is owned by farmers. “We have lost 15 percent of our customers who used to buy beet sugar and cane sugar interchangeably based on price, quality and delivery service. They will now not buy beet sugar regardless of the price because they want to be able to label their food products non-GMO.”
The food news website Food Navigator USA reported that non-GMO food labels have increased significantly over the last decade. In 2009, 1.9 percent of food and beverage products were labeled non-GMO. In 2015, 15.7 percent of food and beverage products made non-GMO claims.
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